Back from Business Trip, Bee Swarm and Progress in the Garden

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The second bee swarm this year.

I got back from another business trip to the east coast Wednesday and have been trying to get caught up around the house since then.  On Thursday evening, I discovered a swarm of bees clinging to a dead juniper tree.  This is actually the second swarm this year.  I found the first on the ground under the apple tree while it was nearly freezing outside, and I suspect that swarm died from exposure.  For this hive, I put out a hive body to try to entice the bees to move there without me having to do much work.  All yesterday, there were bees over at the hive body checking things out.  This afternoon I found the bees have left the tree and I suspect they have moved into the hive body, but I don’t want to disturb the hive for a few days.  There is some minor traffic at the hive’s entrance, but not enough to be definitive.

The garden is starting to grow well.

The garden is starting to grow well.  The irises are blooming in just about every possible color.

While I was gone, the garden has started to take off. The lettuce and radishes I planted before I left have sprouted and are starting to grow.  unfortunately, so have the weeds.  I have spent most of the time since I have returned home pulling weeds from the garden.  The most annoying is certainly Bermuda grass.  It is very prolific and also difficult to remove.  I have more than half the garden still to weed.

Since returning home, I have planted Jericho lettuce, some potatoes that were no longer edible on the counter, mammoth sunflowers, and okra.  I also put flower seeds in the front beds along with chives as a border.  I want the front beds to be a bit more colorful than the green and brown, but mostly brown, color they were last year.

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Irises Bloom, Plantings Continue, and the Remaining Peaches

The first Iris to bloom in my garden.

The first Iris to bloom in my garden.

I went out to work weed the garden a couple of days ago to find that some of the Irises that I received from my Grandparents in Utah are starting to bloom.  I planted these about mid-summer last year and they grew through-out the year.  Now, some of the larger plants are starting to bloom.  The whole thing is rather exciting, because I have no idea what colors I am going to get.

A line planted with radishes.

A line planted with radishes right next to the surviving 16 garlic plants.

I still have quite a bit of space in the garden, so today I spent some time filling things in.  I planted several lines of radishes and lettuce.  The lettuce mainly went right next to the flowers where I don’t have to worry about pulling up a root crop disturbing the flowers.  The radishes went into places where digging them up is not going to be an issue.  I’m trying to fill up the garden as best I can so that I can get a good harvest and also so that I can crowd out weeds.  I would be very happy if the weeds had no space to grow.

One of the peaches that survived the late frost that killed the blossoms.

One of the peaches that survived the late frost that killed the blossoms.

A few of the peaches survived a late cold snap are now starting to get large enough to actually determine how much was lost.  I estimate that I will be getting about 20 to 40 times fewer fruit from the peach tree this year.  It remains to be seen if the fruit decide to grow larger this year to compensate.  I plan to skip thinning the tree of fruit like I did last year in an attempt to get larger fruit.

The weather this year has been very difficult.  We have had several late cold snaps that keep killing early plantings and flower blossoms.  I haven’t planted a lot of crops out of fear they will end up getting killed.  The tomatoes and the peppers are still in the greenhouse.  The cold has also ended up stunting the growth of plants along with germination rates.  About the only things that seem invulnerable to the cold are the perennials, the garlic and the peas.

First Signs of Activity

Henbit is starting to emerge in my yard.

Henbit is starting to emerge in my yard.

The first plants of spring are starting to emerge now.  The first hint I had that this was starting to happen was the weeds in the rock beds surrounding the office I work at.  I suspect the soil directly around the building was warmer due to the heat leaking out of the building and it allowed the weeds to emerge a few days before they would have otherwise done.  Of these weeds, there was henbit and a few types of broad leaf weeds that somewhat resemble lettuce that never forms heads.  This got me on the lookout around my house for similar weeds.  Today I found that there was henbit emerging in my yard not a few steps away from where I had been raking leaves the entire week.  I intend to eventually rip this out of the ground once it has been flowering for a while.  The resources I have found on the internet label henbit as a nectar source for bees and I would like my hives to have it for an early nectar source because no other sources seem to be growing right now.  Once I rip it out, it will go into the compost pile to become fertilizer and soil amendment for next year.

One of several clumps of daffodils.

One of several clumps of daffodils.

While outside today, I also found that the daffodils in one of the flower beds in the front yard have begun to emerge.  Going by last year, by the end of this month, I’ll have lovely yellow flowers in my yard, which will be a good change from the barren winter landscape.

I have only recently started raking the leaves that fell last fall and adding them to the compost pile.  I probably have a several weeks of raking ahead of me as it took about a week to get a short stretch of leaves next to a fence raked.  I intend on getting most of the leaves into the compost pile so they are a source of nutrients and not a waste product that has to be disposed of.

Next Bean Harvest Getting Close

Some of the pinto beans nearing harvest.

Things have been very slow around here lately.  The plants are doing basically what they do: grow very slowly. The pinto beans have filled out very nicely and one of the two fall plantings is getting close to harvesting.  I should be able to harvest sometime in the next few weeks.  I think I will be getting considerably more beans than the harvest earlier this year.  The beans were planted much closer than previously.  I like how this turned out enough that I will intend to do this from now on.  I have a few more patches of beans growing in the garden that are probably  a month behind these.  If this winter is anything like last, things will be very mild and I should be fine, but there is always the chance of a surprise frost from mid October on.

Jars of apple sauce and dried apple chips.

I finally managed to get the apples finished last week.  I ended up turning the remainder into apple sauce and canning it.  Doing everything manually takes a lot of work.  I was only able to make about two or three quarts in a given evening and it left me quite exhausted.  Things like this remind me how much I have been spoiled with food so far.

Chives gone to seed. I’m hoping to collect these seeds for next year.

It is about the time of year to start thinking about the next year.  There is still a huge list of things that need to get done.  Finishing up the harvest, planting fall garlic, adding compost and manure to the garden before putting it to bed for the winter.  I plan on planting lots of pinto beans next year, but I am also thinking of trying a few more things.

A honeybee on a cluster of flowers.  This flower I got from my grandparents.

I want to try planting a small plot of buckwheat.  This should give me something like a grain and also provide a good nectar source for the bees in the spring and fall when they really need it.  But first, I want to get a separate garden plot for it because buckwheat has a tendency to drop some seed before it can be harvested.

Each year is a new start with gardening, and I feel like I have learned a lot in my first year.  Maybe by the third or fourth year I might start getting good yields from the garden and I can start being more adventurous with my plantings.  I enjoy trying to make the future into the present.

Garden is Finally Doing Something Again

Finally, some more bean pods.

I just got back from a week-long trip for work and came back to find that the beans are putting out pods once more.  The last round of beans I planted were pretty much a dud as I got not even a full handful of beans out of the crop.  So far, this is looking to be my largest crop yet.  The plants are packed in much closer than my first attempt at beans and there are flowers on everything.  Some of the last round of beans  decided to start flowering as well, so I will probably end up getting a some beans from that as well.

One double row and a partial single row of pinto beans.  There is communal bee feeder  at the very top of the picture.

The two latest plantings were both directly seeded into the ground in double- and single-rows. I am liking how this is turning out much better than my first plantings started in the greenhouse and I will probably be doing this for all but very earliest crops started before the chance of frost has completely passed.  I think that I will be doing that from now on to try and get as much in before the high summer heat stops everything from producing fruit.

Flowering chives. I hope I can get some seeds off of this.

When my grandparents came to visit, they left me with a bunch of chives in addition to other plants and flowers.  Regardless of what I get out of this plant, the flowers are quite beautiful. I think it was worth getting for just for that.

Once the summer heat wave broke and we were no longer dealing with highs of 115, the plants have sprung back quickly and the flowers are seem to be trying to make up for lost time.  I’ve seen more growth in the past couple of weeks than I have in the rest of the time I’ve had them.  It makes me hopeful that I’ll have some really nice flowers to show off next year.

The pecans are getting nice and big as the harvest starts getting closer.

After I finish with harvesting all the apples, the only tree harvest remaining will be the pecans.  This will be the first pecan harvest I have here.  I’ve had one other place that I have lived where there was a pecan tree, and that produced a freezer full of pecans from a single, giant tree.  I don’t think that any of the trees I have will produce that much, but I do have four trees, so I might end up with more pecans.

A bunch of bees and one wasp on the communal feeder.

While I was gone on my business trip, my brother in law stopped by to build a communal hive feeder and to do inspections.  This should make it quite a bit easier to provide large quantities of feed to the hives without a lot of work.

During the inspections, it looks like the blue hive has no eggs in it.  This may be because the queen stopped laying, or because the queen died.  I hope it is just the first.  But to be safe, a frame of brood has been moved from one of the other hives so the bees are able to raise a new queen if the old queen died.

A Break in the Heat for the Start of the Apple Harvest

The heat in Oklahoma appears to have broken.  I’m glad this has happen as all the plants in my garden have stopped fruiting.  No beans.  No tomatoes.  Now that we are back down into the high 90s, the tomatoes are starting to flower again.  We even got a quarter inch of rain yesterday.

Half a bucket of apples. Like just about everything else that came with the house, don’t know variety. McIntosh, perhaps?

Also, this week, the apples are ripening, which means harvest time and a scramble to preserve as much as I can for when the harvest is over.  I’ve been a bit confused as to when the apples are ready, mainly because this is the first time I’ve dealt with apples that I’ve picked off a tree and partly because I don’t know what they are supposed to look like when they are ready to pick.  I am already starting to preserve some of the apples by drying them into apple chips.  I also intend to try making apple sauce and apple butter.  I’m also saving the peals and cores to attempt extracting pectin so that I don’t have to buy pre-packaged pectin when making jellies.

First Harvested Tomatoes

Nice, ripe tomatoes.

Over the past week, I’ve started harvesting the tomatoes.  So far, I’ve gathered eleven tomatoes.  One of the first things I noticed about them, especially after reading an NPR article on heirloom tomatoes, is the “green shoulders” the tomatoes have.  This is apparently something that pretty much all heirloom tomatoes have and is one of the reasons that heirloom tomatoes taste different from the tomatoes available in the supermarket.

Pinto bean plant with pods a day or two from being ready to harvest.

The other harvest I have going on right now is pinto beans.  I have been getting a nice steady harvest since the first pods I pulled off the plants.  The number has steadily increased over the past two weeks.  Now I am getting about thirty pods a day.  I have easily recovered the seed beans I planted this year and I don’t  see the harvest stopping for several months.  The first row of beans directly planted in the ground is starting to flower and in a few weeks will have their first bean pods starting to grow.  It is about a month after the first pod appears to when the pods can be harvested.

A double row of bean sprouts. In a week or two, this is going to be a nice, thick row of bean plants.

Last week, I planted another set of bean plants directly in the ground.  This time, I am trying a double row of beans to see how that works.  I hope it works well, as using a double row should allow me to plant the beans more densely in the garden plot, meaning more beans in the same amount of space.  I was planning on just using beans as a green manure, but now that it seems likely that I will be able to get beans off these plants, I will take all the beans I can get.  I’m interested in seeing how many I can get before frost kills the plants.